New "Religious Freedom" legislation introduced in the Missouri Senate on Wednesday could bring an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment before Missouri voters this November.
SJR 39, introduced by State Sen. Bob Onder (R-St. Charles), would ask voters to prohibit the state from imposing a penalty on a religious organization or individual who acts in accordance with a sincere religious belief concerning same-sex marriage, which includes the refusal to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony or allow a same-sex wedding ceremony to be performed on the religious organization's property.
The bill further says the state shall not impose a penalty on an individual who declines either to be a participant in a marriage or wedding ceremony or to provide goods or services of expressional or artistic creation for such a marriage or ceremony or an ensuing celebration thereof, because of a sincere religious belief concerning marriage between two persons of the same sex.
"We agree that freedom of religion is an important, deeply-held value, which is why it is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as in current religious exemptions of the Missouri Human Rights Act," said Steph Perkins, Executive Director of PROMO, Missouri's statewide LGBT advocacy organization.
"I hope we can also agree that customers of businesses that are open to the public should be treated with dignity and respect, including those who are gay or transgender," said Perkins.
SJR 39, which would amend article I of the Constitution of the state of Missouri, grows the number of anti-LGBT bills in the General Assembly to eight.
Last year, PROMO helped to defeat a record nine anti-LGBT bills while continuing to grow support for the perennial Missouri Non-discrimination Act or MONA. The legislation has been introduced in both chambers of the General Assembly since 1998 and would add LGBT protections to Missouri's Human Rights Statute regarding housing, employment and public accommodation.
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